Practical Stress Management
Stress is a word that we are all familiar with; however, with the lines between work and the rest of our lives blurring further each day, what can you introduce into your life to reduce stress whilst creating positive habits?
Here are our top practical stress management tips for keeping our bodies and brains healthy.
Exercise is an excellent practical stress management tool, allowing you to burn off anxious energy. It provides a perfect excuse for us to disconnect from the world around us whilst getting our endorphins pumping. However, exercising can fit in the same camp as eating healthy. We all know it’s important, but it can be so hard to introduce into our lives on a regular basis. Sometimes the thought of needing to exercise can be more stressful than the benefits the exercise will give us.
Gym memberships are not right for everyone; neither is stripping down into our togs for a swim. So take the time to think of ways exercise can be introduced into your world in a way that feels manageable and enjoyable. This is about reducing stress, not increasing it. If you like to exercise but not gyms, think of joining a club or playing a team sport, so you get the social interaction and the physical benefits.
If exercise is not your thing, think of introduction classes, so you know most people there are new or learning (there is safety in numbers), or online sessions that can be done from the comfort of your front room. Of course, there are those activities that can be done the minute you leave your front door. Walking, running, and cycling are all activities that can be done solo or with friends.
Calming the mind is a great practical stress management tool for stress that can help reduce and manage anxiety, leaving you feeling better, refreshed, and ready to face the challenges of your day with a healthy attitude. Meditation can help slow racing thoughts, produce a deep state of relaxation and support a tranquil mind. There can be a lot of misconceptions about meditation that may be putting you off; if that is the case, take a moment to read this blog, where meditation and its perceived challenges are discussed further.
Introducing a little more mindfulness into our days can be as simple as spending 10 mins sitting in the sun during your lunch break whilst tuning into the wider world around you. You could step this up by trying to calm your mind, release your racing thoughts, and focus on your breathing. Guided meditation apps can support calming your thoughts and deepening your breath. Start small; you will be surprised just how much impact 5 minutes of mindfulness can have on your stress levels.
You Are What You Eat
Ahhh…..I hear you all saying, yes, we all know the benefits of healthy eating. Be that 7+ fruit and veg a day, Keto, Atkins or Plant-based, the list can go on and on. Depending on the day and person you are talking to will depend on what advice you might get. However, diet plays a large part in how we think and feel. It is one of the first steps any good health professional will look at if your hormone levels are out, if your weight is an issue or if your mood is off. It should also be one of the first things to be looked at if your brain health is also suffering.
Your brain is like every other organ in your body; it needs the right food to keep it healthy. Stress, by the very nature of the word, puts pressure on your body and brain – the healthier our brains and bodies are, the better we are at dealing with those moments in life where things are busy, challenging, difficult or anxiety-filled.
So try looking at your diet, and introduce some healthy habits that work for your mind and body. Remember, however, that we are human and a night out at a restaurant should be enjoyed, don’t stress about the odd ‘meal’ off. This is about setting goals that work for you whilst moving forward with healthy habits.
Slow Down and Drop Out
There is something to be said for dropping out. By that, I mean taking time off the technology grid and out of the rat race to sit and be. This could take many forms. It could be your walk home after work or, in fact, your walk to work. It could be time spent doing a crossword, some mindfulness colouring or journaling.
Your morning coffee could be taken in the garden, where 15 mins surrounded by bird song helps you ease into the day. Whatever your approach, try to think of ways that don’t involve a screen that takes you out of the ‘race’ of your typical day, that gives you a chance to think, feel and be.
Just for You
Finding something for you that you can add to your week that is not work, family commitments, household chores or life admin. Something that brings joy, fills up that happiness cup and that you genuinely look forward to. Having something extra in your week to enjoy does two things.
- It can ensure that some moments in your work week have a ‘hard’ stop to allow you to get to your prearranged commitment.
- It gives you something to look forward to that is just for you. It sounds simple, but adding joy to your week can greatly reduce daily stress levels.
Pick up a new hobby, hold a crafternoon session or games night with friends, take an evening class where you can learn something new, join a book club, whisky club or even a dance class.
Chit Chat Or A Serious Talk
The old proverb ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ has a large degree of validity. Engaging in any number of the ‘talk’ therapies or Psychotherapy sessions is proven to support mental health issues. It’s probably one of the most apparent practical stress management tools available, especially when dealing with ongoing, built-up stress-related health issues. Understanding the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ can go a long way to help you cope or change your reaction to stressful situations.
If, however, you are dealing with more short-term stress issues, chatting to friends and family can help reduce stress that may have built up throughout the day. This is probably why Friday after-work social events are so popular, or a long walk with a good friend can be therapeutic on several fronts.
Science is amazing at developing innovative ways to keep us healthier and happier. The exploration into brain or mental health is no different. Although brainwave entrainment has been around for many years, with research dating back to the 1970s, it still sits on the fringe of being mainstream, a little like mediation did 15 years ago.
So what is Brainwave Entrainment? Light Brainwave Entrainment stimulates the brain into entering a specific state by using high-frequency LED light. Brainwave entrainment pushes the entire brain into a particular state, adjusting or interrupting the brain’s response to certain situations. Essentially reprogramming how your brain processes and responds.
Imagine the benefits of mediation multiplied 10-fold, and that’s the benefits you can get from brainwave entrainment. The good news is that you don’t need to be a mediation guru to access these benefits.Brainwave Entrainment is an excellent natural treatment for stress; furthermore, it can reduce anxiety and depression, help with sleep disorders, eases pain, helps unlock creative expression and increases performance. It is a simple yet effective way to lead your mind into states you might usually find difficult to reach, allowing you to experience what those states feel like.
Relax, Don’t Do it
There is a real benefit in getting our muscles to relax. Unsurprisingly, stressed-out humans present to pain clinics worldwide with tight necks, stiff backs and aching jaws. This is because our bodies will carry stress, holding onto it for months or years if not given the opportunity to relax and release it. And I’m sorry to report; a 2-week holiday once a year is not enough time to release a year of stress. We need to find ways to let our muscles relax regularly. Here are some top tips:
Stretching – Stretching can reduce muscle tension built up throughout the day, which helps to reduce possible long-term pain issues due to muscle tightening. Stretching has also been shown to increase serotonin levels which help to stabilise our mood, reduce stress, and overall make us feel good.
Massage – Deep tissue massage is amazing to help treat musculoskeletal issues, such as strains and sports injuries. But any massage will help reduce stress and tension in your muscles and tissue.
Hot baths – Heat will get your blood moving, which is not only great for circulation but can also help sore or tight muscles to relax. Add some Epsom salts to help reduce inflammation in your joints and muscles.
Sleep – has been proven time and time again to be an essential part of good mental health. Intrinsically we know this, but most of us don’t spend the time ensuring we get enough sleep or implement a routine that supports better sleep. As adults, we should be getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day. To improve your sleep health, try to implement a nightly routine that you follow every day (including weekends). This should include going to bed and waking at the same time each day, reducing screen time at least an hour before you head to bed and removing all screens from the bedroom.
There are a number of practical stress management tools that we can add to our daily, weekly or monthly routines that can collectively help to keep our bodies and brains healthier. Start small; you don’t need to introduce them all at once; after all, we are all about reducing stress, not adding to it.